Arcane Roots’ debut displayed the kind of defiant innovation that many can only dream of.
That the UK rock scene may never fully appreciate what they lost when Arcane Roots called it a day last year is an unjust tragedy. The Surrey trio made music that was truly electric in its free-form composition, resembling the post-hardcore of groups like At The Drive In or Thrice but in truth never fully conforming to a single style. Their sonic trajectory seemed to somewhat emulate their peers further north in Biffy Clyro, not necessarily in sound so much as spirit – in that intrinsic need to ignore whatever superficial boundaries were put in their way. Biffy, of course, would go on to reach stardom when the pieces of the Puzzle finally fell into place, and who’s to say the same fate didn’t await Arcane Roots had they stuck around?
Though not their first effort, the group’s 2011 EP Left Fire saw them properly come into their own. It was a release absolutely brimming with unreserved rock thrills, patches of hard-hitting hardcore and poignant crescendos, and Arcane Roots made sure to capitalise on these strengths on their debut full-length. By and large, 2013’s Blood & Chemistry was less gritty than preceding releases, but in lieu of this it adopted a cinematic scope that made the triumphant choruses in particular truly soar.
Opener ‘Energy Is Never Lost, Just Redirected’ is one hell of an introduction, a statement of intent that kicked off with haunting synths and chilling croons before exploding into life, bursting at the seams with an unstoppable effervescence. There were yet more unrelenting riffs to be found on ‘Resolve’, ‘Sacred Shapes’ and ‘Hell & High Water’, but never ones to rest on their laurels, the band ensured every track was multi-faceted, each one boasting a larger-than-life chorus just begging for a dramatic sing-along.
Not that karaoke with this album is in any way advisable. In frontman Andrew Groves, the band had a truly magnificent vocalist with an unparalleled range, the sort of one-of-a-kind vocalist capable of keeping up with a band who thrived on unbridled dynamism. Indeed, the band’s ambitions were likely what kept them out of the mainstream. Each track bar one surpasses five minutes and explores a myriad of varying ideas. This is, of course, a huge part of its appeal, but it surely played a role in keeping the band on the brink of fame without ever tipping them over the edge.
Proggy 2017 follow-up Melancholia Hymns was a more cohesive, perhaps even more finely-honed effort, and another masterpiece in its own right, but the raw edges of the band’s debut, not to mention the preceding EP, displayed the kind of defiant innovation that many aspire to but will never attain.
Words: George Parr